Authorities probed 349,000 audiovisual studios, stores

BEIJING — A joint Sino-U.S. org aimed at combating rampant film piracy in China held its inaugural meeting in Nanjing this week, and both countries said they had made headway in finding ways to protect intellectual property rights.

Initiative comes after China’s culture ministry, media regulator the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television and the Motion Picture Assn. signed an agreement in mid-July to meet regularly and compare notes on films and homevideo products.

They agreed to try to work out schemes to jointly crack down on pirated homevideo and protect film copyrights.

“The Chinese government is determined to and capable of protecting intellectual property rights, and the rights of all foreign copyright owners will be guaranteed in China,” said Liu Yuzhu, head of the culture ministry’s culture market department. “All activities infringing upon copyrights will be dealt with harshly according to law.”

The Sino-U.S. initiative comes hard just after the local film biz announced a groundbreaking new org to push for greater protection of copyright and help the government draw up intellectual property rights protection.

The Beijing government makes regular noises about improving the protection of intellectual property rights and occasionally launches high-profile crackdowns. Last year, China confiscated nearly 40 million pirated movies and CDs.

But fakes are still sold openly in most major cities in shops and by street peddlers.

This year, measures have been stepped up. According to figures from the official Xinhua news agency, Chinese authorities probed 349,000 audiovisual studios and stores, confiscating 94 million pirated discs and tapes in the first half of this year.

Michael C. Ellis, senior VP and regional director of the MPA, attended the meeting in Nanjing, capital of east China’s Jiangsu province, and expressed his hopes the two sides would increase their bilateral cooperation.

Meanwhile, rights protection was at the top of the agenda of a one-day forum on sports TV held in Beijing on Sunday.

Confab was organized by the Cable and Satellite Broadcasting Assn. of Asia (Casbaa) and China Intl. Television Corp. to produce new insights on the long-term implications of the 2008 Beijing Olympics for the sports TV industry.

Forum attracted 400 delegates and speakers.

“This forum comes at the right time for the sports TV industry in China,” said Casbaa chairman Marcel Fenez. “Sport does more than unlock TV rights; it also unlocks the bigger prizes of advertising, merchandising and corporate sponsorship.”

Alex Gilady, VP of sports at NBC and an IOC member, said: “There will be no streaming of Olympics on the Internet because rights are territorial. If we do not protect rights, we will lose them.”

The forum was also co-hosted by Sarft and the China Media Group, supported by state broadcaster CCTV and the Beijing Olympic Committee Organizing Group and sponsored by Sina.com.

(Bobbie Whiteman in Hollywood contributed to this report.)

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